Gregory of Nyssa Interpretations of Dreams

As previously mentioned, Gregory follows the ancient Greek model of understanding and interpreting dreams to a certain extent by mainly understanding dreams as a natural occurrence, but one thing that set him apart is that there are some instances where divine communication does occur in dreams. Other differences that Gregory illustrates is pertains to the standard views of Christianity, such as independence of the soul which is viewed in a completely different manner than his Greek counterparts. That there is a difference between the body, and the activities of nutrition, sensation, and reason (McCrudy, 1946, p. 230).  In dreams  that are inspired by God, he views them as something different then the normal ideas of dreams that has so far been presented. To further explain this point, he believes that as in the waking state men are guided by there own minds and that if one encounters divine interactions in this state it would be hard to determine that these interactions are miraculous but rather state that nature caused them to spontaneously occur. However, again since each persons mind directs them, there are occurrences where the divine manifest’s its self to individuals who deserve it. This same thing occurs in the sleep state, since we a have a natural propensity to dream we have these imaginary experiences, but some individuals who are worthy experience divine manifestations (McCrudy, 1946, 230). However, Gregory has written a lot more about dreams that just simply discussing divine manifestations in dreams.

As McCrudy (1946) states, “Gregory considered dreams as belonging to the order of nature and subject to psychological explanations (p. 230). In his opinion the sleep state defined as a state of the soul where intellect, or the mind, or reason is intertwined with the senses and is at rest. For Gregory the strangeness of dreams is proof that reason is not present while dream. Since, two of the three elements of the soul, reason and sensory processes, are inactive during sleep it leaves, nutrition as the only main faculty of the soul active in sleep. However, this has happened by happenstance that the nutritive faculty controls the images while sleeping, furthermore, there is not complete alteration of the soul while sleeping, there is just a reversal of the souls faculties in the sleep state. (McCrudy, 1946, 2005).

In terms of dream analysis he has several original ideas but borrows others, such as Artemidorus’s, with the notion that dreams relate to daily occupations and or states of the body at the time of the dream. Gregory notes, what other physicians of the time have noticed too, that patients had a tendency to illustrate the nature of their illness in there dreams which were discussed, allowing  the physicians to determine what was ailing the individuals as well as separate mental ailments from psychical ones. This however,  in terms of psychology is very interesting once again because it looks at the dilemma between the mind and body, and provides a clear illustration that there is a connection between the mind, the dream experiences, and the body, the physical sickness ( McCrudy, 1946, p. 230-231).

By: David Minnick

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